Chasing the Bitcoin train in India has been a challenge beyond expectations. Of course, no one expected this to be easy. The patterns that emerged from Europe, US & China have been similar to the patterns across India. Mining interest came first, followed by Exchanges, and now eCommerce has started, possibly to be followed by gaming.
Lightspeed Ventures, Maninder Gulati’s prediction of USD $100 mn rolling into the Bitcoin ecosystem through VC funds promises to make 2014 a year to reckon with. It would be great to see a percentage of those funds reaching India.
So, where exactly are the legendary technology people from India? Agreed that the world has seen tremendous contribution from them, but what about India. Several global Bitcoin startups have emerged with Indians at the helm. But hardly any have grown out of India. Where does the problem lie?
The lack of clarity in regulation could be a large part of the problem, apart from Bitcoin being rendered as an investment vehicle above all else. Most Asian Countries have stayed cautious towards Bitcoin as its gaze grows stronger over these regions as well. India, not to be underestimated, engages some of the strictest capital controls. Tough as it can be to get money into Indian businesses, it is just as hard to purchase things from outside.
Bitcoin brings a level playing field in this space as crowd funding projects for Crypto in India becomes easier, as crypto currencies are as global as email. Several Crowd funding platforms exist where any project that is well thought of can be funded from around the world. This is another use case for Bitcoin in India, where the world gets to vote on a project to succeed.
There are millions of other uses that are gaining traction with 2.0 protocols coming to life in the form of Etherium, hybrid alt-coins, Open Transactions and several other innovative products based around this vibrant technology. These are still at a stage of early adoption and are in dire need of ecosystems to grow.
Highkart seems to be a great step in the right direction for India. A superb effort from a Delhi group of entrepreneurs, this is a great move towards building up the blocks that will form a stronger case for the community to use as a value addition. Everyday products that can easily be purchased by Bitcoins, makes for a pressing statement. Lower transaction fees and a better control over the customer cycle enables businesses like this to grow quickly and stimulate the economy.
Greater innovation is demanded in this ultra fast world of Cryptcurrencies, where we have total control over our audience and effort. The world has come a long way from the time of exchanging shells and we finally have reached a solution where a certain form of democratic money has been achieved. There are specific implementations that can be achieved through colored coins and decentralized verification systems; These will rapidly change the way we identify with all facets of the future.
As the regulatory authorities failed to provide any form of clarity, suggestions, open discussions or direction towards Bitcoin trading, a strong movement to gain clarity has arisen from Hyderabad. Led by Badravada Venugopal, the ‘fan’ of Bitcoin has filed a notice through Chaitanya Associates from Bangalore to gain answers from the regulatory authorities. An Independent effort, this is a testament to the effort in place to gain some ground across India. The PDF copy of the notice can be found here.
The community in India moves on, with active meetup groups across 6 cities and a growing sense of urgency to grab a piece of the pie. India needs its fair share of Bitcoin and the longer we delay, the harder it gets to catch up with the rest of the world. Cryptocurrencies are still in their infancy and have not yet reached their potential. If current laws are applied to a future technology, no one is going to get it right.
To learn more about Bitcoin and to get started, do check with Coinsecure’s chat support. This service runs from 10:30am to 5:30pm IST and is aimed mainly at Indians who want to learn about getting started with Bitcoin.
Over 750 Indians are now a part of Bitcoin meetups across India. Spread across Bangalore, Mumbai, Delhi, Chennai, Hyderabad and Kolkatta, these groups are active and gather every month to explore new possibilities in Bitcoin.
The recent Bitcoin Bangalore Creativiy Crew meetup at the Microsoft Research center in Bangalore created an awareness of a new technology as people discussed alternative uses of the Blockchain and the uses of it for micro-finance and colored coins.
As the next logical step in several remote areas of India is a community currency, there were discussions around colored coins and how they could transfer value with a single satoshi. The group will focus on development of the Bitcoin ecosystem apart from other initiatives.
The Bangalore Bitcoin meetup group was started in 2012 and has over 450 members. Host to the Global Bitcoin Conference, a first for India, which was held in Bangalore. Starting from coffee shops, to open source labs, the meetups were creative and enabled several entrepreneurs to build up. The group meets once or twice a month and invites anyone to participate in a well organized discussion. The group was also responsible for organizing the well covered Global Bitcoin Conference at the Sheraton earlier this year.
The Bombay Bitcoin meetup group enabled Kolonial’s to accept Bitcoin. Kolonial’s are the first bar in India which accepts Bitcoin. Nesteled in a cozy part of Mumbai’s bustling financial machine, this is a testament to the work conducted in enabling merchants by the meetup group.
What comes next for them would be more important as people add to this growing meetup which has over 175 members already. An active community that has several interests and initiatives in mind including bitterco.in which seems to be run by a focused individual who has shown tremendous commitment to the Bitcoin community.
The Bitcoin in Delhi meetup is a new group focused on working towards enabling Bitcoin and teaching more people about it. Led by a crypto expert and some very involved Bitcoiners, get prepared to meet with early adopters, miners, developers and a host of people getting ready to take Bitcoin to the capital of India.
The Chennai Bitcoin meetup group which was started recently has seen a nice group of people join in and they seem ready to go as well. Expect a similar crowd to gain force as the days pass. Over 20 members in the first few days since it began, will be great to see it grow.
The Hyderabad group and the Kolkatta groups have been started and intend to host meetups in their respective cities. These groups are still young and will grow large over the next few weeks.
The meetup scene is still in its infancy as India has a large geography. More cities need to participate in order for it to grow. A veritable library of information and opportunity, these meetups help build start-ups and enable entrepreneurship before all else.
The platform used popularly is meetup.com. This has enabled all the above meetups to start and grow.
aBitsocial.com is a social network created by a Bitcoiner from India in order to get like minded people together. A solid platform, aBitsocial enables events, blogs, chats and several other necessary tools in order to organize meetups as well. Still at an early stage release, hoping to see this grow in the future.
The meetup website had over 40 RSVP’s for the first Bitcoin meetup that we had at Microsoft Ventures Accelerator. 20 participants came on time to explore some new possibilities in the Crypto-currency space.
Our first Meetup at Microsoft Ventures Accelerator
As this was the first meetup, we discussed a short presentation, scraped from around the Internet, to introduce newbies to the Bitcoin concept.
Suprisingly, although we have had a healthy ecosystem for Bitcoiners in Bangalore, almost all the people who attended were new. Developers, Entreprenuers, Startup Founders, NGO Workers and more developers gathered to understand the scope of what this technology could offer.
Post a quick sign up at the front desk, we ran through a short presentation that outlined some basic aspects of Bitcoin. Several questions were asked and were answered as to my best ability. The questions ranged from its legality, to its block size to problems associated with it, and opportunities that stem from problems.
A short little break with soft drinks and snacks, enabled everyone to network a bit and catch up with people.
The group then came back together for a group discussion which enabled exchange of ideas and an understanding into the application of Bitcoin technology into various aspects ranging from public verification systems to creation of colored coins and creating payment processors!
As this was the first meetup in the new format, we wound up with some discussions as to how we can proceed with the meetups and we set a short agenda on what can be expected over the next few months.
We get together at the same venue on the 25th of January 2014 at 14:00PM to continue our discussion and try to form groups that can enable various services across the ecosystem.
Several Meetup groups have evolved across India and more are in the Making. If you are in any of the below mentioned cities, do join a bunch of active like minded Bitcoiners and help the Community grow.
I caught up with the COO of Gogreensolar for a quick Chinwag on their initiatives and Business model.
Harold Tan: COO of Gogreensolar
1.Tell us a bit about your vision and mission for Gogreensolar.com.
Hi Benson, our vision is simple – change the world with green energy. Our environments are toxic, communities are exploited, and we’re on a collision course for a dead end if things don’t change. We’re here to help make that change, and our mission achieves it by bringing awareness and access to effective green energy solutions.
2.Would be great if we could see a graph of Gogreensolars growth since inception.
Unfortunately we can’t provide that graph, but we can say that we’re undergoing tremendous growth and can always utilize more team members!
3.How did you hear about Bitcoin? How did you’ll make the decision to go with it as a payment option?
From a good friend in the financial services industry. The values of Bitcoin and energy independence seem to be aligned. Bitcoin is a decentralized economic tool, and we see energy moving toward a decentralized model. We support systemic decentralization (like the internet), and partner with entities of similar values.
4.Any Bitcoin orders so far?
Yes! Big thanks to Redditors for helping get the word out. Sorry for any initial confusion on the checkout process, we’re waiting for Shopify integration to have the purchase experience completely seamless, but we definitely do accept Bitcoins for any orders by phone or email.
5.What plans are in store for 2013-2014?
We have some very big projects lined up with major municipalities that I can’t talk about quite yet. But it will make news headlines. We have a lot going on behind the scenes beyond just selling parts 😉 We are also in talks with traditional investors regarding these big projects, but are exploring new investment models like crowd-sourced funding.
6.Any plans to go international with Gogreensolar?
We currently already service international clients, but don’t have any physical presence overseas. If there’s anybody international reading this article that would like to partner, drop us a line!
7.Any partnerships planned in the near future?
Many! The growth of our business ultimately depends on partnerships and relationships. Without people, without an integrated web of support, we would just be another retail shop buying and selling matter. We’re here to do much more than that, we’re here to improve the way we produce and consume energy. Join us!
That was a nutshell of Gogreensolars plans, vision and dedication to Energy and Decentralization. I am hoping that a few Business cases can emerge based on this adoption of Bitcoin.
A superb event at the Centre for Internet & Society was organized on the 23rd of January 2013. The all star team at the CIS (http://cis-india.org/) was awesome at organizing this event for Bitcoin. Live Streaming, Mainstream Newspaper coverage and Twitter based Q&A made this the first Bitcoin Event in India that leveraged these mediums of information transfer.
Aaron Koenig gave a talk on the creation and use of Bitcoin, and on a payment system designed for the voting process of the Bitfilm Festival for Digital Film. Since the year 2000, the Bitfilm Festival has been showcasing films that use digital technology in a creative and innovative way. It takes place on the Internet. However, physical screenings of the films will be held in Bangalore and in Hamburg. Each of the 59 nominated digital animations has its own Bitcoin account, and users worldwide may vote by donating Bitcoins to the films they like anonymously and without any transfer costs. The donated money will be divided among the most popular films (the films with the most votes/Bitcoins).
A strong knowledgeable speaker, Aaron brought forward his tremendous knowledge of Bitcoin, Art & Economics.
The Twitter based Q&A can be viewed on the Twitter ID’s of
The Newspaper Articles where Bitfilm & Bitcoin made their news in India were
Blink.li is a new magazine that is in its 4th publication.
Blink is being maintained and published by the MD of Bitfilm.com
The main topic of new BLINK issue will be the new digital currency Bitcoin.
With articles by Thorsten Polleit, Rick Falkvinge, Mike Hearn, Dominic Frisby and many others.
Bitcoins will be used for the voting and as prize money for the Bitfilm Festival Awards
The Bitfilm Festival for Digital Film will be the first film festival worldwide that uses Bitcoins for its online voting and as prize money. Its opening event will take place in Bangalore at Jaaga Art Space (68, KH Double Road, Shantinagar) on January 17, 2013, 6.30 p.m. This event will mark the beginning of a worldwide online voting action for the Bitfilm Awards in 3D animation, 2D animation, hybrid digital films and Machinima (films shot live in computer games).The worldwide audience will decide which films will win the Bitfilm Awards, to be handed over at the Bitfilm closing event in Hamburg (Germany) in April, 2013.”Our closing event for 2011 was in Bangalore, and we have met so many interesting and creative people here, that we decided to come again to do our opening show this year”, explains Aaron Koenig, Bitfilm’s founder and director, who is in Bangalore for the Launch of the Competition.
Bitfilm has been showing films that use digital technology in a creative and innovative way since 2000. For the first time, Bitfilm will use the new digital currency Bitcoin for the voting process and as prize money. Each of the 59 nominated films has its own Bitcoin account, to which film fans may transfer money anonymously and without any transfer costs. The film with the highest number of donated Bitcoins and votes per category will receive the award. The donated money will be divided among the three best-ranked films per category.
“We are very fascinated by Bitcoin. It is a new kind of money, which has the potential to revolutionise the world as much as the Internet did” says Aaron Koenig. “Bitcoin is an open source currency that needs no central bank and knows no inflation. It is also a new worldwide payment system that makes money transfers around the globe cheap and fast.”
In Bangalore, Bitfilm will present a selection of 12 nominated films which represent a huge variety of genres and styles. There will also be a talk about an Indo-German co-production by Aaron Koenig and Vijayaraj D. from Bangalore, who have been working on a number of short animated films together, the most popular one is about Bitcoins: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eb0xHN1Dq7M
Mobilecozy came into the payments market earlier this year and have been pursuing an effective & steady drive to network and promote their white label mPOS product. They are currently in a pre-launch phase.
Sainath Gupta is founder & CEO of MobileCozy. An entrepreneur and businessman from a remarkably early age, Sainath is forging a path through rough regulated waters to simplify card payments.
Sainath Gupta, CEO Of Mobilecozy @sainathgupta
As with any software company, Mobilecozy is also working on a SaaS project with a European client. The project they are working on is an NFC + Bitcoin initiative. As a consultant to their Bitcoin project, I was requested to present Cryptocurrencies, Bitcoin & Paradigm shifts in the Indian Payments ecosystem at the summit as part of a panel discussion.
Knowledgefaber is facts based consulting and research firm. With technology advancements, consumers today can pay for their transactions in more than one way. But 97% of people in India still complete their transactions using cash. This is seen by them as a huge opportunity for new methods & technologies for payments and is the reason behind this summit.
The summit aims to bring together experts from Prepaid, M payments, other payment players, BFSI, Payment tech enablers & software companies and discuss the way ahead.
The conference had a mix of traditional bankers and emerging payments companies in the audience.
The Panel Discussion
The topics of discussion were:
Emergence of new payment methods – How the increasing use and adoption of payment methods like prepaid cards, m-payments ( Mobile card readers, NFC based payment systems, mobile wallets etc.), electronic payment gateways and e-wallets are challenging incumbent methods (credit/debit cards etc.)
Payment landscape in developed v/s emerging countries – How the affluence and technology maturity in various countries affect the choices of payment methods (Special emphasis on India)
Which payment methods will face least resistance in terms of consumer adoption and why – globally and in India?
Which segment of new payment methods will see maximum competition? What will be the niche areas to target for new entrants?
How various entities/stakeholders, currently active in payment industries have to evolve to stay relevant? (Banks, Visa/Mastercard, Payment gateway companies, merchants etc.)
Conclusion: Identifying next winners in the payment industry – globally and in India.
I was honored to be a part of the panel which included:
Vipul Vohra – Engagement Manager at Knowledgefaber & Moderator
Neel Chowdhury – Co-founder and COO, Giftloop and Former CMO, Obopay
Kunnal Sharma – Business Head, Global Remittances, TimesofMoney
Bhavin Satikunvar – AVP, Internet and mobile banking, Dhanlaxmi Bank
Vipul Vohra started the discussion by presenting us with a few numbers from the global cash based economies.
USA has a cash usage of 60%.
EU has a cash usage of 78%.
India stands at 97% cash usage.
This outlines the number of opportunities for players who want to involve in the payments landscape. Electronic & Mobile wallets, gateways and micropayments are forming a strong area of opportunity.
Speaking about the global trends in payments, Kunnal painted a picture of the payment landscape in the US. He also spoke about mPesa in Kenya and how the landscape was shifting in India. He spoke about the history of payments and the evolutionary path.
He felt that people were not ready for Mobile in India and going mobile will not solve too many immediate problems. He had an approach which was to respond to demand rather than to create demand. He attempted to drop a few case studies similar to Brett Kings Bank 2.0 in terms of future bankers of our youth.
He spoke about the lack of infrastructure and the poor 3G networks in India. He mentioned that most phones in Japan were waterproof because most youth bring their phones to the shower. He felt that the RBI was progressive, supportive and willing to enable more players in the money market.
He reacted negatively when he heard about Bitcoin being open source. He mentioned “If trust and convenience is there, the payment industry lets you make money. I am of the firm opinion and I don’t really like the players who come to the market and say that it’s free to the consumer. No, the consumer wants to pay money. The payment industry need to make money at the end of the day and if we start to discount products, then the industry is not going to make money.”
Neel Choudhary @neelspeak
A thought leader in India today, Neel is the Co-Founder and COO for Giftloop. A social payments company, Giftloop is in a pre-launch stage. His vision for emerging payments rests with Mobile & Social payments.
He was vocal about the success of mPesa in Kenya and spoke of the issues regarding India. Adoption and Awareness are two areas of opportunity in India. He stressed on the security of Mobile Payments, when he stated correctly, ‘is Safer than Cash’. He feels that cash will never die, however transactions with cash will reduce.
Mobile payments will take off; it is only a matter of time. He feels strongly that mobile payments and mobile money will explode in India due to its 1.2B population. Neel rightly pointed out that technology builds are not a high cost problem these days.
He predicts social payments with mobile as a principal driver in payments. Collaboration will play a pivotal role in bringing in newer payment methods to challenge cash.
A banking veteran, Bhavin brought forward several consumer level problems such as ease of use and adoption. He maintained a non-opinionated stance and spoke about a progressive India. He mentioned areas of awareness as well. Customer on boarding is also a problem being faced by Banks today.
Bhavin rightly pointed out that the B2B payments market is yet to explode in India as well, and there is a dire requirement for it. The interchange charge reduction was also proposed by Bhavin.
He praised the RBI (Reserve Bank of India), mentioning that they were extremely cooperative and are working closely with Banks to encourage more initiatives to cover the unbanked population in India.
I presented my views of unbanked Indians. At 41% of the population unbanked, it is a huge opportunity for Cryptocurrencies and emerging payment methods. I spoke of the viral growth of Bitcoin in the recent years and its inevitable entry into India.
I mentioned the paradigm shift across the planet, bringing forth new technologies in banking such as Dwolla, Carrier billers and even the cash based network in Pakistan got a mention. Mobile money is inevitable. It is safer, faster, cheaper and more pervasive than cash or cards.
I spun a few heads when I went through a checklist of Bitcoins features.
No POS required.
Over US $ 100mn in circulation in just 3 years
Instant Money Transfer
Powerful P2P network
Global Ledger Book
No Double Spending
I finished my bit by evangelizing the movement of even lower income individuals from feature phones to Smartphone’s. Bitcoin & Mobile are here to stay was my prediction.
Inspiring to hear that the RBI is open yet cautious. ‘RBI is the most progressive regulator in the world.’ was stated by all my co-panelists. I would most certainly want to see what they have in store for Bitcoin in the coming years.
Needless to say that Bitcoin is way ahead of its time in India. The traditional bankers were certainly not ready for Bitcoin, and the emerging Payment companies had a smile when they heard about it.
Our 3rd Meetup in Bangalore
We wound up our 3rd successful Meetup with 5 Bitcoiners last Thursday. We discussed easy ways to get merchants to adopt Bitcoin and several points of true value were discussed during our meeting. A few monetary systems were discussed post which, we were teased with the knowledge that a working INR – BTC exchange was around the corner.
Post the Meetup I received a mail from a friend in a neighboring state requesting me to represent his company at an Emerging Payments Summit in Bangalore. Due to a last minute shift in plans, the CEO of the progressive mPOS solution company called Mobilecozy was unable to make it to the event.
Sidhant and Nanoushka hosted this meetup to perfection by identifying a venue and the time to kick-start India’s first Bitcoin meetup. Sunny and I found our way to a brightly lit Barista where our fellow enthusiasts awaited.
We hypothesised and reminded facts and reeducated each other for a good 3 hours. Four Bitcoin & Technology enthusiasts, we spoke about various topics surrounding Bitcoin, Gold, Silver, Libertarians, Favourable markets, Entrepreneurship, and ways to establish Bitcoin in India.
We spoke about Freetown Christiania in brief and it got me wondering about Bitcoin in Christiania.
As Christiania has been well documented, I will attempt to summarize with links relating to the site with content.
As stated on the Wiki, Ludvigsen was co-author of Christiania’s mission statement, dating from 1971, which offers the following:
The objective of Christiania is to create a self-governing society whereby each and every individual holds themselves responsible over the well-being of the entire community. Our society is to be economically self-sustaining and, as such, our aspiration is to be steadfast in our conviction that psychological and physical destitution can be averted.
The perfect society that we all dream about exists in the Danish capital of Copenhagen. Amidst a row of controversy during its creation in a military zone in 1971, Christiana has withstood the sands of time and still stands strong.
The people of Christiania abide by rules set by them. They operate with a simple principle that each individual must bring value to the community and maintain responsibility to develop their own area. Non compliance to the same leads to eviction. With the Freetown operating in a transparent democracy, not too many evictions have been recorded through history albeit a few. While it’s dark market of cannabis trade, keeps its currency valuable, it has been under recent criticism.
Posted under the list of attractions in Copenhagen, the media kit provides an insightful glimpse into the heart of Christiania. With over half a million visitors a year to this self proclaimed town, Christiania pays for water and energy and strengthens its economy with small businesses such as coffee shops and manufacturing daily stock. With an approximate population of 1,000 people, Christiania residents own 132 cars out of which just 14 can be parked inside the city.
Christiania operates at an efficiency that allowed their society to spend 76.5m Danish Krona (circa US$ 13.2m) to purchase the whole area where they had squatted for 40 years.
Bitcoin in Christiania
Unable to obtain any specific information regarding Bitcoin’s usage in Christiania, I am hoping to engage any readers to include any information on the same.
Hypothesising a perfect society with a perfect currency is never going to be simple. Bitcoin probably weighs its significance in Lon (Christiania Currency), in Christiania’s beautiful society already. With a need to maintain a currency of benefit to engage in international and domestic trade, Bitcoin’s introduction to Christiania could enable this free and self-governed society to maintain a stronger economy through easy international trade.
This is the perfect launch pad for a Bitcoin based society.
We need to consider the benefits of a social experiment in each country around the world.
Consider a Freetown in every country that allows its members or citizens to build an economy.
Consider a Freetown of thinkers, speakers, architects, engineers, 4 doctors and no lawyers.
Consider a world where your voice can actually be heard.